Monday, May 02, 2011

The Meaning(s) of "Exoneration"

The Innocence Projects do God's work -- but I have long thought that the Projects use the word "exoneration" much too loosely and thereby frequently claim far more than the evidence shows. Cf., e.g., parts of my blog posts

Saturday, November 12, 2005

When Chances Collide; DNA & "Exoneration"; Suggestibility & Gullibility at


Tuesday, August 27, 2002

DNA in the News: Imperfect Evidence and Imperfect Justice, at
new article by Keith A. Findley apparently makes an analogous point. But Findley draws a starkly different moral than I do: He thinks the Innocence Projects define "exoneration" and "innocence" too narrowly rather than too broadly.

  • I think that some guilty people are wrongly convicted and that when we think that a wrongful conviction of a probably guilty person has been properly set aside, we should not refer to such an event as an "exoneration." We should call a spade a spade. We should say, simply, that the conviction was properly set aside, and we should not pretend (unless we have reason to think that such is the case) that an innocent person has been exonerated.
  • Under many circumstances, of course, the wrongful action (or inaction) of some public official makes it difficult or impossible to make a reasonable judgment about the guilt or innocence of some person. When that is the case, that is what we should say is the case.
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